Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes...

Big changes are under way at Logan on the Chesapeake, Wheeling and Erie Railroad. Several e-mail exchanges with good friends Stuart Thayer and Anthony Hardy earlier in the week pointed out the lack of an ammonium nitrate unloader on the layout. I told them that I had always wanted one but had been unable to find an appropriate location. I pointed out several potential locations and the problems with each. While the issues weren't insurmountable, the locations weren't ideal. Then it hit me- it could be located at Logan. The short spur here has served as a team track during operating sessions, but I had never come up with how the area would be treated from a scenery and structure perspective. Possible options included remnants of a now out-of-service truck dump loader or some other small structure. I was also concerned about the scenery in this area as there is a bit of space between the end of the spur and a small culvert just out of site to the left of the photo.

A quick check revealed that the unloader would fit here and would probably leave room for a team track at the end of the spur. However, the spur would have to be moved and extended. And as long as I was tearing up track in this area, I decided to replace the commercial turnout. While it hasn't given me trouble yet, several others had and I was planning to replace it at some point anyway.

The photo below shows the area after removal of the old spur and turnout and after the new homosote and switch ties were put down.

In the picture below, you can the extension of the spur. There will be enough room for a two-bin unloader and a team track area at the very end of the spur.

I use Micro Engineering wood ties for the track and 3/32" x 3/32" basswood for the turnout ties. The turnout ties are sanded until they are level with the surrounding track ties. Over the years, as I laid new track I pulled out ties that were slightly irregular or damaged  and saved them in a separate bag for use on spurs. I also made a jig for ties that had slightly wider spacing than mainline track. The photo below shows the spur ties, and you can see the slight difference in spacing versus the mainline in the background.

Thanks to the input and prodding from two good friends, I'm fixing a problem area that had perplexed me for years, adding a new industry that I had always wanted to model, and replacing a turnout that had been on the to-do list for a long time. More to come on this as progress continues.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wide Vision Caboose Fleet

Back in the early 1980's I came across an article in Model Railroader about the wide vision caboose fleet of the Soo Line. There were numerous photos and several drawings of the various versions of the cabooses. What was most noticable about the different versions was the changes in window placements. Some had two windows on the side, some had one, and some had none. There were also different window arrangements on the ends. At the time I was just developing the caboose roster for my railroad and I decided to modify some Athearn wide vision caboose kits in a similar manner to the Soo. In addition to providing some variety to the fleet, the changes could represent different orders acquired at different times which would help lend credibility to the free-lanced railroad.

The major changes to the kits included changing the windows, moving the truck bolsters closer to the ends and trimming the bottom of the cupola. In the photo below you can see the original kit and the modified version.

In studying the photos of the Soo Line cabooses, it became apparent that the kit needed some modifications to more closely represent the wide vision cabooses of the era. That lead to moving the truck bolsters out toward the ends and trimming the bottom of the cupola. Other changes included the addition of Cal Scale cushioned underframes, removing the cast-on grab irons and replacing them wire brass wire, and adding a few additional details such as firecracker antennas and vents. New end railings were fabricated using brass wire and styrene for the kick plates.

I also decided to model several different classes of cabooses in order to add some variety to the fleet. In the photos below you can see the Class C6, C6A, and C7 variations.

The small windows on the sides of the C6A and C7 class were cut from the ends of a spare wide vision kit and spliced into the side. The original Class C6 were delivered with roofwalks and ladders, and I added an etched brass roofwalk along with ladders on the end. Note also the different placement of the stacks on the two classes.

In addition to changes in windows on the sides, I also changed the end window configuration on the C7 class as you can see in the photo below.

Once operations started on the layout I needed to expand the size of the wide vision caboose fleet. While the Athearn cars were fun to do at the time, they were a significant amount of work. I had seen numerous photos and reviews of the Atlas wide vision caboose and it seemed like a logical candidate. I purchase three of them on EBay, stripped the paint using 90% isopropyl alcohol, and added a few details. I also blanked out the middle window on each side to give them a slightly different appearance and because the road name wouldn't fit anywhere else. The photo below shows the Atlas and Athearn kits together.

Here's a close-up of the Atlas kit.

The three Atlas cars were weathered in varying degrees as you can see in the photo of the two cars below.

I used overhead photos of Chessie System wide vision cabooses that I took from the Hopple Street Viaduct in Cincinnati back in the early 1980's to weather the roofs.

The photo below shows the whole fleet of wide vision cabooses.

The Atlas kits are beautiful, and I plan to add more to the fleet as operations expand further.